Leeks, a member of the onion (allium) family, resemble large green onions but have a stronger, more earthy taste. While not as common in the United States, leeks are a staple in French and Spanish cooking. Not only are they tasty, but they also offer health benefits that range from lowering blood pressure to facilitating weight loss to helping your skin stay luminous and youthful. This vegetable is easy to grow in most climates and can add great flavor to stir-fry, salad, braised meat dishes, and soups.
Leeks are rich in vitamin A, one of the nutrients necessary for the eyes to properly function. They are also loaded with antioxidants that help the eyes combat environmental pollutants or allergens with which they might come in contact. Lastly, leeks are good sources of zeaxanthin and lutein, which shield the eyes, thus helping prevent cataracts.
Many skin issues associated with aging, such as dark spots and wrinkles, are exacerbated by free radicals in the environment. The antioxidants in leeks combat these aging elements and can make your cleaner, healthier, and more glowing. Leeks also contain allicin, an anti-bacterial agent that keeps germs at bay.
Good eyes and skin aren't the only health benefits of leeks. These large members of the onion family are also good for your heart - they contain kaempferol, which protects the blood vessels. They also contain small amounts of nitric oxide, which helps dilate and relax blood vessels.
Another healthy ingredient in leeks is potassium. This nutrient helps regulate tension in blood vessels to keep a steady flow of blood streaming through your veins and arteries. Potassium also helps to regulate hormone levels in the body and maintain a good acid/base balance in the digestive system.
Anemia, a low concentration of red blood cells in the blood, can cause a number of troubling symptoms including fatigue, low mental alertness, and general weakness. Leeks are a good source of iron and B vitamins, which both combat anemia and boost the body's red blood cell count.
The antioxidant vitamins in leeks are beneficial for weekend warriors; they lessen inflammation from sore muscles, bruises, and strains. These elements are also useful for reducing inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis and easing the symptoms and discomfort associated with these conditions.
Leeks contain vitamin K, which is needed to produce a protein called osteocalcin successfully. Osteocalcin is essential for good bone health and wards off osteoporosis. Vitamin K is also a blood coagulant and helps decalcify the blood, keeping your blood vessels open.
Leeks are natural diuretics. That means they facilitate the natural process of expelling sodium and water as urine. Diuretics help regulate blood pressure naturally and help preserve kidney function as we age. Lower sodium in the body means less tension in the blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure.
Leeks are low in calories and have very little residual glucose (sugar). They inhibit a-amylase activity, controlling insulin levels and preventing dramatic spikes in glucose, which can be dangerous to a person with diabetes. The vegetable also contains allicin, which helps avert neuropathy or nerve damage often associated with diabetes.
In addition to being delicious and low in calories, leeks are a good source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps us feel less hungry and satisfied longer, thus reducing cravings for high-calorie snacks between meals. Eating more fiber helps lessen overall appetite and makes it easier to stick with a weight loss diet.
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